Other notable measures included the establishment of a National Security Council with an active National Security Advisory Board, the partial merger of the three Services Headquarters with the Ministry of Defence and the establishment of the Strategic Forces Command to manage India's nuclear weapons. This long-pending reform in the country's defence and security threat perception, analysis, decision-making and policy-implementation structure will lead to an exponential improvement in the management of national security.
When the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government assumed office in May 2004, it promised to improve on the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s track record in managing national security. However, today, it has nothing to show for its efforts — except the creation of a new department for the welfare of ex-servicemen.
The NDA government may not have left India shining, but it had notched up several impressive achievements on the national security front. Foremost among these was declaring India a nuclear weapons state, a move that unquestionably enhanced India’s quest for strategic autonomy. Other notable measures included the establishment of a National Security Council with an active National Security Advisory Board, the partial merger of the three Services Headquarters with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the establishment of the Strategic Forces Command to manage India’s nuclear weapons. The new government needs to move with courage, sagacity and speed to take some major decisions to make the country more secure, both externally and internally.
India has long been internationally perceived — and has behaved as such — as a soft state. Otherwise, the Pakistan army’s decade-and-a-half old proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir would not have gone unchallenged. Also, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would not have been allowed to spread its tentacles. The Pakistan army’s recent peace overtures are nothing but a tactical ploy to buy time to deal with the al-Qaida and the Taliban menace on its western borders, and its own terrorist organisations that have now become Frankenstein’s monsters and are running amok within Pakistan. The internal security situation in India is also far from encouraging, with religious extremism once again rearing its ugly head even in progressive states like Gujarat. Fissiparous tendencies in disparate ethnic groups are coming to the fore.
The first and foremost requirement for the better management of major national security concerns is to genuinely integrate the three Services Headquarters (HQ) with the MoD without further delay. This long-pending reform in the country’s defence and security threat perception, analysis, decision-making and policy-implementation structure will lead to an exponential improvement in the management of national security. The Services HQ are still “attached offices” of the MoD for all practical purposes, and merely renaming them has served no purpose. All vested interests still opposed to this ineluctable reform need to be ruthlessly brushed aside. Besides such integration, other salient recommendations of the Arun Singh task force on higher defence management, such as the creation of a chief of defence staff (CDS) to preside over the recently established HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) and the delegation of financial powers to the chiefs of staff of the army, the navy and the air force to manage their respective revenue budgets, also need to be urgently implemented.
A comprehensive Strategic Defence Review (SDR) has been reportedly conducted by the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) but no apparent action has been taken on its findings, nor have they been declassified. The dangers posed by present and emerging threats to national security are too serious to be left to the executive branch of the government alone. These include the threat to India’s integrity from the scourge of international fundamentalist terrorism and the linked proliferation of small arms; threats from weapons of mass destruction, information and cyber-warfare; the imperatives of food, energy and water security; and the hazards.